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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Spring cleanup time in PA

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Mar 16, 2015 2:40 PM
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Photo by Scott LaMar/WITF

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Photo by Scott LaMar/WITF

What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, March 17, 2015:

Instead of grass, the first thing we see on the side of many Pennsylvania roads and waterways, once the snow has melted, is trash. Every year the first big thaw brings relief to drivers sick of ice and snow, but also reveals the toll that winter has taken on the state's roads and highways.

The volunteers of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful are ready to take on the task of a spring cleanup. Originally launched by one woman and her local community in Westmoreland County to keep large and unwanted trash items off of their local roads, what has become Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is currently collaborating with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in an event called the Great American Cleanup.

Volunteers across the state are cleaning up trash and litter, holding recycling events, painting over graffiti, and generally beautifying their local communities as part of the Cleanup, which runs through the end of May. Since 2004 over a million Pennsylvania volunteers have picked up and disposed of over 80 million pounds of trash and over 200,000 tires during the annual event.

Penndot oversees the more structural types of cleanup that springtime roads require: pothole repair.

Joining us on Tuesday's Smart Talk to discuss the Great American Cleanup and spring road maintenance are Shannon Reiter, president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and Penndot spokeswoman Jamie Legenos.

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Jamie Legenos and Shannon Reiter

PennDOT Pothole Hotline: 800-FIX-ROAD or 800-349-7623

PA Recycling Hotline: 800-346-4242

To participate:

Interested individuals can find a listing of cleanup events, resources for organizing a cleanup, and other information about the effort online at Groups interested in adopting a section of highway are encouraged to contact their local PennDOT County Maintenance office and ask for the AAH coordinator, or visit

To learn how you can report illegal dumping in your area, visit

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-03-17 08:17

    Amy from York Springs emails:
    Sorry, Pennsylvanians have no concern for the environment as evidenced by the amount of litter that piles up along my rural road. Who thinks it's ok to roll down the window and toss out their soda can or McDonald's bag? I picked up two full garbage bags of trash (sorted for recyclables and non) last year on a 1/4 mile stretch by my house. I noticed with the melt that the trash is back and I will be heading out again.
    I lived in Vermont for two years and the roadways are spotless. Is it because people care more or because the state has a bottle redemption law so there's incentive not to toss out your cans and bottles.

    • SReiter img 2015-03-17 13:54

      When traveling through the different parts of the country you can definitely see a difference in litter and illegal dumping. Bottle deposits can be an effective tool in keeping specific materials off the streets as it assigns a value to them for the consumer. In Pennsylvania, we have built a robust recycling industry over the last few decades that is largely dependent on what is placed in the blue bin. We have also made great strides in expanding the different materials that we can place in the blue bin and have made recycling easier with the expansion of single stream programs. The system is perfect, can be improved and we have some ideas on how to do just that! Admittedly, I am not a materials market expert, but I would think diverting materials out of the bin would have a considerable impact on the current markets making such a transition in Pennsylvania difficult. Additionally, a bottle bill would only account for the bottles while a stronger, more robust recycling program would capture a more diverse pool of materials. We will continue to educate and advocate for recycling in Pennsylvania and thank you for your dedication to clean and beautiful communities!

  • Lisa img 2015-03-17 08:24

    If you don't drive those trash trucks down every lane, you will still have people dumping in the woods and or just burning everything. People are lazy and will not drive their trash and, especially not their recyclables, to a location. My neighborhood has trash and recycling pick up and many of my neighbors are too lazy to even sort out their recyclables. When my family hikes we always pick up trash along the way. The sad thing is that so much of what is just tossed is fully recyclable. Time to fine those who don't recycle and time to bring back bottle deposits.

    • SReiter img 2015-03-17 14:00

      It is really frustrating seeing trash dumped along our roadways and streams- especially when trash pickup and recycling is accessible to nearby residents! We believe that given the opportunity to do what is right, most people will make the right choice. However, for those that don't, enforcement is critical. we are now offering a new program to help municipalities fight illegal dumping and encourage you to check it out at Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is not an enforcement agency but we think we can support enforcement efforts through this program!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-03-17 08:25

    Matt from Hanover emails:
    I agree with Amy, the previous emailer, that I cannot comprehend the mentality of those who throw their litter out of their car windows. Three quick related questions:

    - are there steps to prevent this behavior that could work better? Clearly the signs that warn of fines aren't working.

    - is there a category of driver that tends to exhibit this behavior more than others? Not to pick on them, but I'm thinking of truck drivers.

    - does roadside litter ONLY come from cars, or is there something about roads and traffic that draws trash blown from homes and businesses?

    Thanks for this program!

    • SReiter img 2015-03-17 14:07

      Hi Matt- thanks for checking in today! When it comes to litter, it is hard to pinpoint the who and why but Keep America Beautiful has done some research on the issue. Here is a link....

      Also, accidental litter is a component of what you are seeing along the roadways and or in your neighborhoods. Overflowing trash cans, un-tarped loads, cans and or bins without a lid all contribute to the litter we see along the roads.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-03-17 08:27

    Vincent from Elizabethtown writes:
    I'm a resident of Elizabethtown where every public park is closed off to dogs. This discourages owners from not only socializing there dogs but also aggravating with retaliation by leaving dog's remains on private and public properties. It leaves a stench on the community and the landscape of the town

    • SReiter img 2015-03-17 14:10

      I think every town needs a dog park Vincent but every dog owner needs to clean up after their dog! I am amazed at how much is left behind by other dog owners. I myself, always carry extra bags!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-03-17 08:29

    Hattie writes:
    I live in Hampden Township. I have to wait for my weekly pickup if I have extra trash I have no place to take ii. For instance if I am moving and need to dispose of extra debris…..NO WHERE TO GO WITH IT. I have to wait for my curbside pickup.

    I used to live in Greenville, SC and if we had extra trash we could drop it off at the land fill. Maybe people drop their household trash along side of the road because we no dump or land fill to take it to. We actually had a very nice dump to go to. Landscaped and pretty.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-03-17 08:35

    Dawn writes:
    Good morning. My dad taught us not to be “litter bugs” (and I’ve admonished those people I’ve seen littering). I am now teaching my children the same thing and I believe they will, in turn, teach their children. It only takes a little effort to reap big rewards.

    • SReiter img 2015-03-17 14:17

      Thanks Dawn for all you do, I couldn't agree more! I encourage you to register a cleanup event with the kids Send us some photos too!

  • Lisa img 2015-03-17 08:39

    Cigarette butts are not only litter, they are a fire hazard during periods of drought. How many "brush" fires along highways in the summer are caused by disgarded cigarette butts?

    • SReiter img 2015-03-17 14:20

      Hi Lisa- I think you make a great point! They are a fire hazard although I don't have any statistics to offer. We do offer tools and resources to prevent cigarette litter and you can learn more at Thanks for emailing in today!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-03-17 08:50

    Jim writes:
    Great show!

    In past years I have volunteered to clean up trash in my community. By far, the biggest volume of trash was from McDonald's and Burger King, and yet the local franchises would not cooperate with our group (offering food and drinks for the volunteers, etc.). Is there any way to hold the businesses who generate the trash accountable?

    • SReiter img 2015-03-17 14:26

      Hi Jim- thanks for emailing today! This is a common question we get from volunteers all over the state. We encourage you to keep communicating the value of what you are doing and your willingness and desire to work with the business. It can be frustrating when businesses don't respond positively to our requests, we get turned down sometimes (often) too! However, at the end of the day, I think we just have to keep trying to build relationships. Give us a call at 1-877-772-3673 and we can talk about different strategies to gain more in-kind support for your community efforts! Thanks for all you do!

  • SReiter img 2015-03-17 14:14

    Hattie, we agree that Pennsylvanians need convenient and affordable access to trash disposal and recycling. Sometimes you just need to get rid of things on the spot and even if you did wait for your weekly pick-up you may not have the ability to dispose of a bulky item such as a coach or mattress. Every municipality is different. We have made some recommendations on this very issue that I encourage you to check out. Here is the link to the executive summary of our report- Thank you!

    • Big Data Training in chennai img 2015-05-06 01:46

      Now, if I could just get my allergies to cooperate so I could enjoy the warmer spring weather.

  • Jhansi img 2016-01-12 04:16

    Hi Scott,
    I am reading your post from the beginning, it was so interesting to read & I feel thanks to you for posting such a good blog, keep updates regularly.

    • coursecrown img 2016-10-12 03:58

      Yes The post is very interesting and the content is readable.
      I also want to participate in these types of cleaning events.